Dear Mr. President,
This past week, I was pleasantly surprised to receive from you and the White House a response to my personal immigration story and open letters calling for immigration reform. The letter reiterated your support for immigration reform even though it comes in the midst of the latest immigration battle at the borders, as thousands of Central American children and women seek to add to the undocumented population of the United States.
Unfortunately, Republicans, instead of finding a real solution, are again blaming you, even though it is a law a Republican Congress passed under their own Republican president that has resulted in border agents being unable to send back these Central Americans as soon as they show up at the border.
Still, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the author of the provision in the human trafficking law, is right in noting that a change in regulations, not the law, can and should speed these migrants’ return to their homeland.
The law already allows the Health and Human Services and the Homeland Security departments to write regulations to deal with “exceptional circumstances” that would allow officials to return the children more quickly to their home countries, Feinstein said on July 11 at a hearing on a $3.7 billion emergency budget request from your White House to deal with the growing crisis on the border.
And these children and their mothers must be dealt with immediately instead of being given safe haven in the United States and placed with friends or family members. As the data from the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review proves, about a quarter of immigrants facing deportation hearings don’t show up as ordered. Worst, the court process can take years, and the no-show rate for the juvenile immigration court docket is about 46 percent.
This means all we would have done is expanded the undocumented population in the United States and made it harder for those who have been living here for years, who have been paying taxes and been moral citizens, to get any form of relief. Right now, most of the polls have shown a thawing of Americans’ attitudes about immigration regardless of race. For instance, in 2002, only 46 percent of Blacks polled labeled immigration a “good thing” for the country. By last year, that number climbed to 70 percent. In 2002, 51 percent of whites labeled it a “good thing.” Last year, the number stood at 71 percent.
With Congress doing nothing, even your moves toward some executive relief will go over well with most Americans, especially those Dreamers who have grown up American and their parents, too. Let’s not blow it now by taking in these border kids and placing them into systems where they will be hard to deport. It will only encourage more and more to show up at the border. A clear message must be sent: detain them, pass them through the court system and send them home sooner rather than later.
The writer is CMO of Hard Beat Communications, which owns the brands News Americas Now, CaribPR Wire and Invest Caribbean Now.